Monday, April 7, 2014


We just finished up a great conference in San Antonio, and you’ll be hearing a lot more about everything that happened at the conference in this blog, eWire and the website through the coming weeks.

One of the big events in San Antonio was the launch of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy’s BE the CAUSE campaign (formerly Every Member). Everyone who gave to the foundation at the AFP Hub, which was a fountain of activity, got their photo taken with a message about why they gave. You can see mine here.

I thought it was a great idea because it focuses our annual campaign on what matters: you.

You want to advance the issues that affect our profession. You want to advance ethical and effective fundraising because it builds trust with donors. You want to help prepare the next generation of fundraisers who will carry on our work.

The foundation is an extension of you, and your vision for the future of our profession. It’s about your passionate commitment to a cause that inspires you to be a part of this amazing profession.

In turn, the AFP Foundation supports your work as a fundraising professional. It’s about all of us working together—to shift the vision of fundraising to align with future demands, while continuing to uphold the ethical practices that are critical to our community of professionals. And providing important tools to you—such as our Ethics Assessment Inventory, research scholarships and diversity initiatives.

I support the foundation because fundraisers DO turn opportunities into reality. You have your equally important reason. And whatever it is, I urge you to support the foundation as well. It’s how we advance the profession.

It’s your gift. But it’s about all of us, working together.

BE the CAUSE is something we can all proud of, and something we can use in our own work. To learn more and give, go to the BE the CAUSE website.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

And We're Off!

We’re just days away from the start of the AFPs 51st International Conference on Fundraising in San Antonio.

It’s the largest gathering of fundraising professionals in the world. It features nearly 100 educational experiences and extraordinary networking opportunities with professionals from across the globe.

But I think what truly makes the conference so special is our community—the profession coming together to share and be re-inspired about the incredible change we make possible.

We get to experience the feeling of rubbing elbows with thousands of colleagues, representing a myriad of causes and countries, all of whom are as passionate as you about changing the world.

We get to share in the legacy of our honorees this year, including Eileen Heisman, our Outstanding Fundraising Professional.

We get to hear the story of a pioneer, Steve Wozniak, who not only changed the computer industry, but how we all work and live (and is now deeply involved in philanthropy).

We get to put our values in action by supporting AFP’s conference service project, AFP Gives Back! This year, everyone can participate, whether you’re attending the conference or not. We’re supporting the San Antonio Food Bank, and all you need to do is go to our project website and click on the “Donate to this Drive” button. The San Antonio Food Bank will also be collecting all of our unused box lunches and distributing them as well.

It’s a great project and a critical way we can show how our profession can truly make a difference.

And that’s really what our conference is about: a celebration of the difference we make—of what we make possible every day. Beyond the fundraising—beyond the education and networking and reaching goals--what we do is make dreams possible.

I’m looking forward to celebrating with all of you in San Antonio—to hear your stories of impact and change. Learn more about the conference in my recent Nikki's Notes chat! And if you can’t make it to the conference, follow everything that’s going on through Twitter with our hashtags #afpicon and #afpshift!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Significant Legislation, Even in an Election Year

There’s been a lot of activity on the Hill over the past two weeks, here in DC. We’ve seen the introduction of two major public policy initiatives: a tax reform plan released by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chair of the Ways and Means Committee; and the Obama Administration’s 2015 budget.

Both proposals have significant implications for the fundraising profession.

The Camp tax reform plan, among other things, creates a two percent floor for all itemized deductions. It also limits the total annual charitable deductions a donor can take for contributions of cash—from 50 to 40 percent of adjusted gross income.

The Obama budget repeats a lot that we have seen before (several times before really), including a cap on all itemized deductions—the charitable deduction not exempted. As we’ve said many times previously, that represents a potential loss of $80 billion in charitable contributions over 10 years.

It’s tempting to say, in an election year, that a tax reform bill is too much for Congress to try to pull off. And a budget plan is always going to get scoured and carved up the minute it hits Capitol Hill.

But we CANNOT afford to ignore these proposals.

It’s clear the Obama Administration is still not getting the message. Despite numerous meetings, and continued assurances from White House officials that they understand the needs of the sector, the Administration seems committed to pushing a cap on giving.

The Camp plan is significant because it comes from the chair of the Ways and Means Committee and a leader in tax reform ideas. Even if it doesn’t pass this year, it sets the marker and starting point for future tax reform discussions.

We cannot allow these proposals to be introduced without a strong show of our concern and strength. Our advocacy sends a message to the White House that we will not be taken for granted. It tells Congress that the sector is watching how it supports the sector. And though our stories and advocacy, we show the government just how wrong-headed these proposals are.

Our leaders ARE listening when we get involved. One-third of the Senate, led by Sens. Wyden (D-Ore.) and Thune (R-S.D.) have signed on to a letter protecting the full value of the charitable deduction—an initiative AFP and the Charitable Giving Coalition helped support.

AFP has worked up a short fact sheet about the Camp proposal, along with a sample letter. Please, take a minute or two and write up a short letter, talking about what a loss in contributions might mean for your organization. I also filmed a special Nikki's Notes about this important issue.

And be on the lookout for an e-letter campaign on the Engaging Networks platform. We’ll roll that out to you and your colleagues in the very near future.

These sorts of proposals won’t end until we make Congress and the White House understand the importance of the charitable deduction—for our organizations, and the people we serve.

We CAN make a difference, and we need to now.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Measuring Our Impact Locally

One of the great strengths of fundraising and philanthropy is their diversity—they grow and evolve differently in every country and region. The same is also true of how fundraising and philanthropy are supported, taught and passed along—by AFP and others.

I spend many weeks traveling from one group of fundraisers to another through the course of the year, much of that in North America, Mexico, Canada and the United States. I also visit groups of fundraisers and AFP members around the world. It’s eye opening to see the diversity of experience reflected in fundraising communities around the world, and to realise some of the underlying similarities—in issues and solutions—that they share.

I've been in Hong Kong and Indonesia recently. Two chapters that, on paper, look very small. But the potential for both is huge, especially considering the number of people who have already benefited through contact with the chapter.

How do we measure their impact? Certainly not through membership numbers—the traditional model is not one that has much traction in these regions. Yet the touch points, the numbers of people who have benefited through contact with those chapters, are considerable—and the role they are playing in developing a strong foundation for fundraising and philanthropy in developing NGO sectors is critical.

In Hong Kong, chapter partnerships with Council for Social Service, along with workshops and other programmes, help to reach significant numbers of fundraisers throughout the full spectrum of NGOs. The potential exists, again through partnership, to stretch its influences further to mainland China.

In Indonesia, outreach to a number of local and Indonesian NGOs helps to train organisations and a new generation of fundraisers. These programmes create a degree of sustainability and an awareness of the benefits of professional fundraising that AFP could not achieve in any other way.

The traditional chapter model is difficult to sustain in these environments, but focus on delivering value is universal. What I've learned through working in multiple communities is that value can only be defined locally, based on culture and community environment. That’s what we strive for at AFP in the IHQ-chapter relationship, working with you to create the change that is needed in your local community.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Numbers of an Evolving Profession

At the end of January, AFP had surpassed 30,500 members—a great milestone and a good sign that we’re providing the right services for members at both the international and chapter levels. What’s even more interesting to me, though, is HOW we grew, and how the profession is evolving.

The number of members who have more than 16 years of fundraising experience grew by three percent last year, and that demographic makes up just over 50 percent of our membership.

At the same time, with the creation of our Young Professionals membership category, the average age of our membership has decreased. Young Professionals increased by over six percent in 2013. Fundraisers with less than five years of experience make up about 20 percent of our membership, and that group is expected to grow significantly over the next several years.

We have an incredible foundation of experienced fundraisers now in the profession. They’ve taken the courses, they’ve learned from the pioneers of our field and now they’re ready to make their own imprint on the profession.

Then we have a huge growing influx of younger fundraisers—some from other fields but many entering the profession as their first choice. They wanted to be fundraisers—and that’s very significant considering how most of us entered the profession. They’ve got new ideas and perspectives and lots of enthusiasm.

Given the incredible wealth of ideas that both groups have, one of the most important goals we can have as a profession is to bring these groups together. Mentoring is fast becoming one of the most popular questions AFP fields questions about, especially from young practitioners who are seeking guidance from experienced professionals. How can we—as an association, as organizations, as individuals—support this movement?

AFP is examining models to support a larger mentoring framework around the world, as well as providing forums for individuals to come together, share and ask questions (check out our new online Q&A Chat sessions, with renowned international fundraiser Daryl Upsall and social media expert Claire Kerr coming soon). But that’s just one step, and a lot more works remains to be done.

We need to have a profession that encourages these sorts of activities. The more these different groups can interact together, the stronger our profession will be as it grows, evolves and encompasses new practitioners and perspectives.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Happy New Year!

January is an exciting month as we look forward to the year ahead. And 2014 augurs well.

We’re seeing a number of positive signs, not the least of which is the gradual recovery of the global economy. Our latest AFP Quick Poll found that 70 percent of respondents expected to raise more money in 2013 than in 2012, with just 12 percent predicting they would end up raising less—strong numbers compared to previous years.

But our challenges aren’t going away, including the growing demand for services as government funding continues to trickle away (and ironically, government’s desire to undertake greater oversight of charities and fundraising increases). You’ll hear the theme of “doing more with less” throughout the year—nothing new here.

So how can we expect to find success in the coming year? It’s all about leveraging what we have, and I believe that we all undervalue our existing resources.

We have to look at partnerships and collaborations, allowing all partners to function more effectively and helping us avoid having to reinvent the wheel all the time.

We have to take a step back and see how we can be more creative and innovative in our approach to fundraising. Innovation doesn’t just happen—we have to take the time to review our organizations and brainstorm. Build on the enthusiasm and brainpower of your staff and volunteers.

In fact, working with our volunteers deserves a mention all on its own. If you’re thinking of New Year’s resolutions still, how about this one? Stop viewing donors and volunteers as simple givers of time and money. Their ideas, perspective and energy can be invaluable—use them!

And of course, use your fundraising community as well—AFP. Your community starts with your colleagues down the block. AFP is an amazing network of fundraisers experienced in every aspect of the profession around the globe – from the smallest community groups to the largest international NGOs, hospital and university foundations. Combine that with our resource center, research and educational opportunities and conferences and you’ve got the foundation for a successful year.

The truth is, we don’t have to do more with less. Because we have more than we think we do. Be creative and build on what you have—including your AFP community—and you’ll be well on your way.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Honoring Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s death last Thursday has been described as the end of an era.

He was a constant presence and inspiration for so many of us – throughout our lives.

Mandela was many things: teacher, lawyer, civil rights activist, freedom fighter, president, leader, and father of his country; with all this, he was also a philanthropist.

The issues he worked on ranged from global to local. They included the eradication of poverty, HIV and AIDS, hunger, international development and promoting local South African artists. He donated one-third of his presidential salary to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and inspired many notable South African leaders, educators, artists and others to get involved in his charities.

But think about the man Mandela was.

He stood for something powerful – he never wavered in his belief, despite incredible challenges.

He saw the long-term and planned for it, focusing on his goal.

He attracted hundreds, thousands and even millions of people to his cause.

He took the lead when he needed to, but also delegated and worked with other people, understanding the power of community.

Those are the actions of an inspired philanthropist and leader—someone we can look up to, respect and be inspired by, regardless of where we are in the world.

The world has lost a great leader. But it is not the end of an era. We must not see Nelson Mandela’s legacy as statesman, civil rights activist and philanthropist as ending with his death – his legacy heralds the beginning of a new era for us all.